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Unique Things to Do in New York With Kids – Free Fun for the Entire Family

Posted in City Guides on July 13, 2022

Living in NYC comes with many benefits. The most populous city in the US has a giant economy and endless job opportunities. But this place isn’t great just for grownups. There are many exciting and fun things to do in New York with kids that won’t cost you a dime.

New York City. The City That Never Sleeps. Are you considering moving across the country to the city Liza Minnelli sang about? This bustling metropolis isn’t considered the capital of the world for no reason. This is the worldwide center for finance and banking, and many people consider the relocation to this big city as a fresh start in their careers. After all, it’s a global hub of commerce and business and the financial, cultural, and media global capital. So, relocating here with children seems likely for anyone with a family who wants to pursue their career.

Things to Do in New York With Kids for Free Are More Easily Accessible With an IDNYC Card

Although the cost of living in New York is extremely high and similar to the one in San Francisco, there are still many benefits of relocating to this global capital. This metropolis has an almost never-ending list of opportunities in every aspect of life, whether it’s business, education, or lifestyle. But what about our offspring? Are there any interesting things to do in NYC with kids that won’t cost you an arm and a leg?

No matter which of the five NYC’s boroughs you choose to reside in, you will be eligible for something called an IDNYC. Residents of this metropolis, ages ten and above, can access a wide range of services and activities thanks to this free municipal identity card. Holders of an IDNYC card can take advantage of discounts and perks provided by companies and cultural institutions throughout the five boroughs.

New York, an aerial view on the Central Park
Living in NY may be expensive, but you can find loads of fun for your family without paying a fee

How to Get This New York Identity Card for You and Your Kids?

IDNYC is a very handy thing to own, and it should be on the list of stuff to consider when moving to this state. Right after you move safely with cross-country movers and settle, you can use the IDNYC online portal to apply or visit their Enrollment Center in person. It’s completely free, and if you are 16 or older, the card will be valid for the next five years, while it will be valid for two years for those under 16.

It has some really great benefits like proof of residency and immunization. Additionally, it will qualify you for affordable housing through the portal NYC Housing Connect. But for anyone with children, the most important benefits are the museum and cultural institution conveniences.

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Which Museum Can You Visit for Free With This Card?

If you’ve ever wondered, “Is New York good for the family?” and whether you should invest in cross-country moving services to move here, IDNYC will convince you that it is. It gives you membership without any charge for a year or discounted tickets for some of the world-renowned institutions and museums. There, you can find some of the best things to do with kids in NYC, and your children will be able to see and learn a lot. Each year, the list of participating institutions is updated, and here are some of those that offer membership for cardholders:

  • American Museum of Natural History,
  • BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music),
  • Brooklyn Children’s Museum,
  • Carnegie Hall,
  • Central Park Zoo (enrollment for this is only available at the Bronx Zoo),
  • The Juilliard School,
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art,
  • Metropolitan Opera,
  • New York Aquarium (enrollment for this institution is only available at the Bronx Zoo),
  • New York City Ballet,
  • MoMA PS1,
  • Staten Island Museum,
  • And many more.

For further information, you can visit the corresponding page for any of the boroughs, and also make sure you watch the following video to see how the application process goes. This ID card may come in handy, even if you plan to move to this metropolis alone.

The Museum of Modern Art Requires No Admission Fee on Fridays

No matter if you’ve made up your mind about relocating to the suburbs or you plan to pack your bags and move from house to apartment in the city’s downtown, being close to the greatest cultural institutions is a great advantage for families. One of the best things to do with kids in New York City, even if you haven’t applied for the IDNYC, is visit MoMA. Children under the age of 16 get gratis admission, and for the grownups, the entry is free on Fridays from 4 until 8 pm. You can also visit the sculpture garden without charge at 9:30 am and stay for 30 minutes.

The Museum of Modern Art is located in Midtown Manhattan, and its role in collecting and developing modern art is invaluable. It’s one of the largest museums that display modern art in the world and also one of the most influential. They offer family programs to their visitors. This includes access to audio and activity guides, labels, and different hands-on activities for your children.

The video below shows a quick tour of the MoMA for first-time visitors.

You’re Not a True Resident of NYC if You Haven’t Visited the American Museum of Natural History

We haven’t met a child yet who doesn’t love dinosaurs and that hasn’t gone through a phase of obsessing over them. Most children know how to name at least some of the dinos before the age of ten. So, if you are currently living in Denver and you’re not sure how to convince your offspring that relocating to New York is a great idea, just tell them about the American Museum of Natural History.

At the entrance, you will probably be greeted by a giant skeleton of a Diplodocus, also known as Dippy. It was the first dinosaur ever to go on display, and your children will love it! They will consider this to be one of the most awesome things to do with children in NYC, and they will gladly go every chance they get.

What’s There to See, Besides the Dinos?

Dinosaurs are fun enough, sure, but the kiddos will also love everything else. They can also see whales and elephants, and lots of other species, and learn everything about them. Once you visit the Hall of Biodiversity, your kiddos will love the fact that they are living in NYC and that they get to experience all of this.

Get on the Staten Island Ferry Without Charge, and See the Statue of Liberty Up Close

You can’t be a true resident of this metropolis without seeing the Statue of Liberty. But, if you want a whole day of excitement and seeing the statue up close without paying admission, you should catch the Staten Island Ferry. Believe it or not, there is no entry fee needed, so you will be able to see the Statue of Liberty without paying anything. You should get on it from Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

The Staten Island terminal is next to Empire Outlets, NYC’s first outlet mall. Since the ferry is used by tourists and commuters going to work, ensure you steer clear of the crowds during rush hour. If you get stuck in the sea of people, you will be rethinking your decision to live here and start thinking about moving out of this place.

The following video offers some great tips about riding the ferry.

The Best Free Fun for Those in Brooklyn

But, what to do with kids in New York if you’re located in Brooklyn? If you’ve got a job here before you’ve moved, it will be best to look for activities for children right in this area. Although the subway connects all five boroughs, you should probably let the kiddos explore their closest surroundings first.

Start From Brooklyn Bridge Park

Relocating from the West Coast to the East Coast means you will be able to live in different surroundings in every way. But the best way for you and your children to experience a diverse ecology is to visit one of the parks. Brooklyn Bridge Park is a great place to start – it’s unique in every way. This waterfront green space will allow your kiddos to experience many outdoor activities that won’t cost you anything. If you’ve packed their books when preparing for cross-country moving, you can always bring them here and enjoy the outdoors and the weather while they are reading.

A path between trees in a park
Parks offer many possibilities for outdoor fun

Visit Governors Island

If you haven’t heard about Governors Island before planning long-distance moving to this metropolis, you should know that it’s a small paradise between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It has a regular ferry service each day of the week from May 1st to October 31st. If you want to catch the ferry without charge, remember that you should get on it on weekends. Catch it from Manhattan at 10 am, 11 am, and 11:30 am, or get on a ride from Brooklyn at 11 am and 11:30 am.

The island offers plenty of outdoorsy excitement. Bring your bike with you, and pack a picnic basket for an utterly carefree day. You can also enjoy lying in a hammock or going to the adventure playground with your children. If you’ve moved with your dog, bring it with you for an outdoor adventure with children.

Go Kayaking in the Park

If you love water activities, you will be delighted to know that this place offers kayaking at Pier 2, without any charge. You can paddle without an admission fee from June to August. If you’re worried about your kiddos, remember that the beginners are given basic instructions. Another wonderful thing about this place is an outdoor movie series on Thursday nights throughout July and August. It’s an outdoor DJ set followed by a film, so it’s one of the more fun things to do in NYC with family.

What To Do in Central Park With Your Kiddos?

If you’re wondering is Central Park safe, you should rest easy because you and your children will be among many visitors during the daytime. But keep in mind that unlike relocating to a small town where the parks aren’t that large, Central Park is huge. It’s easy to get lost in densely wooded areas, so keep an eye on your children at all times.

Go to the Tisch Children's Zoo

This zoo knows what children like, and it’s to pet animals. That’s why it features a small petting area, where your child can see and pet cows, pigs, goats, sheep, and other animals. If they want to feed them, there are dispensers with animal food all around, so your young ones will have the opportunity to feed them. There are cute bronze sculptures of zoo animals beside each pen, where your children can learn various animal sounds by touching them. Also, a nearby Acorn Theater with a troupe performs every day.

The Henry Luce Nature Observatory

The Belvedere Castle features the Henry Luce Nature Observatory inside. It’s a fantastic educational site that shows visitors all there is about wildlife and nature in Central Park. You can climb up and down the winding, narrow staircases of the castle. The Observatory offers its visitors different tools for exploring, like microscopes, telescopes, and various Discovery Kits that include binoculars and maps.

The second floor of the observatory is an excellent place for bird watching.

Saturday Morning Storytelling Program

Central Park features the statue of Hans Christian Andersen, the famous author of literary fairy tales. There’s a reason why children like to come to this particular statue frequently. There’s a Saturday morning storytelling organized during the summer months at the foot of this statue. Young ones can listen to the storyteller who reads many of Andersen’s well-known tales.

What’s the Cheapest Time to Go to New York? Moving Cross Country Is Best in the Summer

This bustling metropolis is a fantastic place to live in, in every possible way. And whether you’re looking for free activities for your children or you’re ready to pay a fee, it offers a bunch of educational and fun pastime options. But, what is the best time to move here? This solely depends on the long-distance movers and whether you will pay for a packing service or other optional solutions. Keep in mind that the recommended time of the year to move is in the summer when the children are on a school holiday. Now, all that is left for you to do is pack your stuff and move to one of the best cities for millennials in the world.

Kate Holland

A true grunge and rock music fan born in Seattle, Kate has moved across the country and started writing about her experience.

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